The last post I wrote, Moral Absolutes and Personal Convictions, was in regards to taking our personal convictions . . . convictions that aren’t biblical moral absolutes . . . and placing them on other people. It was about holding others to standards that may be right for us, but that God never set up for all of mankind. If you haven’t read it, I encourage to read it.
This evening I want to discuss something that appears to be almost opposite but absolutely isn’t. It would seem that if we aren’t to hold others to our own personal convictions then we should not care if our behaviors and words offend them or even cause them to stumble . . . after all we’re not responsible for the sins and struggles of others, correct? As long as what we’re doing is not forbidden in God’s word then we don’t need to worry about what others think, right? That’s a big nope. What we do . . . what we say . . . and yes, the image we put in front of others does matter. It matters because we are representatives of Christ. It matters because we are supposed to point others toward Him . . .I’ll be the first to admit that I daily mess this up, and He, in turn, daily covers me with His grace. This is not about being perfect. Please do not read this wrong. This is about being His hands and feet on this earth.
There is no doubt that many people are offended by the cross . . . that’s not the issue at hand. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I am not speaking of the offense brought by the cross of Christ. I am speaking of offending others without care or conviction for how it affects our witness or causes them to stumble.
When I was young I remember one of my Sunday school teachers telling me that I “may be the only bible a person may ever read”. And in my own power that’s too much pressure to get it right. As a human, I am going to fail. But there is so much grace and forgiveness and numerous lessons to be learned at the foot of the cross, and it’s only through power of the Holy Spirit that I can truly be the representative for Christ that I should be.
Having said that, there are certain personal convictions that I most definitely do NOT hold, but because I know others do hold those convictions, I try to be respectful of that. I try to be aware of the company I am in or as the case may be, especially with social media, my audience . . . how what I’m doing and saying and the image I’m presenting might affect others . . . not because I’m putting on a performance or being a fake, but because I either (1) don’t want to be a stumbling block or (2) don’t want to bring unnecessary offense. I’ve said time and again, I will not apologize nor will I back down from my belief in Christ and all that entails, but I want to be sure that the I’m doing all I can to draw others to Him not push them away.
Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. He is speaking of eating the food offered to idols in this particular passage, but we could easily substitute any number of things here.
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols. And because of you knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Just fyi, Paul isn’t saying we all have to become vegetarians so no one panic. We have so much liberty in Christ, but we also have to be so very careful that we don’t abuse that liberty to the detriment of others. There are a number of other scriptures that discuss this, but bottom line . . . we need to proceed with caution when it comes to what we do, what we say, and what we put out there for others to see. We need seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and ask Him to fill us with the power to make the best choices.
Not holding others to our personal convictions and not using our own liberty to cause offense and stumbling amongst others are not mutually exclusive. They actually go hand in hand, and we always need to remember Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
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